In Conversation With: Deyah
Her latest single has caught the attention of multiple radio stations and has been slotted into lo-fi playlists across streaming platforms. Despite being unable to perform this past year, Deyah’s sound is continuing to grow and reach new audiences day by day. I jumped on a call with artist, producer, and Welsh Music Prize award-winner Deyah to chat about faith, her musical purpose, and releasing music during lockdown.
Releasing new music these days is quite different, everything’s done virtually, which has been tricky for some but Deyah’s settled quite nicely into the current situation. “I haven’t really minded being indoors and especially when you’re releasing music it’s a lot easier...I just find it an easier environment to work in so it works for me.” Alongside working on her moonwalk (which she promises to try and sneak into a music video soon) Deyah says she’s spent this time indoors writing the odd freestyle and although she misses performing, she confesses that the Instagram lives and virtual pop-up shows aren’t really her thing. “I thought I’d leave that to everyone else to do. I prefer to stay in the background and kind of like work on my performance skills and work on my craft so that when it is the time to perform then it’ll be some type of crazy.” The loss of live shows in the last 11 months has been tough for the music industry, their return will undoubtedly happen with a bang .
Before we started talking about her future hopes, she spoke about how she began making music in the first place. “My dad always played music around the house, 24/7, so I kind of had that in my head from young and enjoyed listening to the lyrics and melody and stuff.
I went to a private school and all the classes and stuff just did nothing for me, and when we had career day I was just not feeling it. So I kind of just thought what is it I actually love doing? Music.” After that realisation, Deyah began DJ-ing but it didn’t feel expressive enough, so she turned to poetry and then eventually, rapping. This newfound talent was nurtured at her [then] local community centre in Cardiff. In the early stages, her call-outs for beats were disappointing to say the least, so she purposefully decided to learn how to produce herself. Seeing as she writes and produces the bulk of her music, who better to explain Deyah’s sound than Deyah? “I think I’d say like an alternative R&B kind of conscious lo-fi vibe. I would just describe my music as a reflection of my soul, like a mirror of my soul - I just kind of create whatever’s there. If there’s a bit of Spanish Latin going on then I’ll do that, grime then I’ll do that too, but as of now I’m just kinda doing whatever I feel to do.”
I was glad she brought up the Spanish/Latin vibe that peeks its head in her music from time to time, as heard in her El Chapo/Pablo’s Wife freestyle. When I asked her to tell me a little more about that she mentioned that she “went to a university where only 10% of the students were British, all the other students their first language was either Spanish or Portuguese or anything else, people from all over. I was studying to be an assistant pastor for 3 years; you’ll have people in the audience that are Spanish, for example, and don’t speak any English so I’d speak English then try and translate some to Spanish. I wouldn’t say I'm fluent, but I can have conversations in those languages.”
Although I was initially surprised, Deyah’s faith is certainly a topic of conversation in her music, especially in her last EP, Care City. She credits that experience to a lot of what goes into her music, “I was atheist then in 2015 I found God like I found my faith and as cliche as it sounds, it’s a journey. So most of my music from the start documents my faith or journey and what I’m feeling towards God or what I’ve learned.” She goes on, “Care City, unfortunately, is the project that documents my faith being completely shattered which is not great but then the next EP that’s coming out hopefully will be a bit more uptempo and a bit more positive about my faith.”
The Care City EP feels really honest albeit a little conversational; I imagine the creative process for a project like that would be easier because she’s talking about things she was going through at the time. To this Deyah explains: “That’s [her music] the only place I can be completely open and raw and honest and that’s why I do that. Does it make the process easier? Yeah because you’re just speaking your truth, but at the same time it’s quite draining because when you’re writing these things you start thinking about them and I don’t want to think about these things. I think it can be quite healing to a degree.”
Besides her faith, love of words and need to express herself, she mentioned some artists that have influenced her journey. “The person that I love the most rapper-wise, I love Little Simz, she’s just too much. For her, I feel like she’s just in her own type of lane completely, there are so many songs that I listen to that really help me through my journey. J Cole, Wretch 32, Lauryn Hill, Jill Scott, Aaliyah, and Missy Elliot. Also, Kirk Franklin - he’s provided some of the gospel vibes.”
Ultimate Dinner Party has gained a lot of attention over the past few weeks and after ranking the soups mentioned in the song (Ogbono was not at the top to my relief), we spoke about its rollout and reception so far. “It’s been sick, I think because people are at home they’re more inclined to go on their phones and stuff. It’s made it easier to promote and it’s also easier to contact different radio stations and people with promotions and stuff. So yeah rolling out in this lockdown has made it easier for me. In terms of writing it I didn’t really think too tough about it, I just started writing.” Deyah makes it a point to tell me that the track was actually a freestyle, “what it should say is Ultimate Dinner Party Freestyle, in brackets. There’s no chorus or structure. It’s just me running my mouth for a good 2 minutes and a bit, so it’s not really about much. It’s my mind but just written down.”
With the buzz growing around her, I thought it was important to know what Deyah wants her music to do for fans old and new. “I want it to be a safe thing for people to listen to. It saved me numerous times so I basically like to do that, not save people, but make them feel like they’re not as alone as they might feel they are. Also, I want to create a different narrative to the one that we have for women and for men, because I do feel like women feel like they have to be a certain type of way to get a man, and then they get the man and it doesn’t work out and then they feel even worse about themselves. I just want to be able to tell people to be who they are and look how they wanna look and think how you wanna think, pretty much.
Deyah’s only getting started and reveals she has a couple of projects lined up over the next few months, including a freestyle EP. We’re looking forward to that and seeing her grow as an artist.
Check out Ultimate Dinner Party on all streaming platforms.